Investing in New Infrastructure to Build Successful K-12 Education Programs

Four Preliminary “Lessons Learned” From Covid-19 School Closures

The sudden closure of K-12 schools during the spring of 2020 shined a harsh spotlight on five structural shortcomings in the American education system:

1. Unequal Access To Study Areas, Computers, And Broadband Internet In American Homes

The sudden switch to online instruction for K-12 students revealed widespread resource disparities in the homes of America’s young students. For example, rural students living beyond the reach of broadband Internet networks either couldn’t participate in online instruction or had to drive to wireless emergency “hotspots” set up by local school districts or library systems to get a working Internet connection. Online instruction also revealed students in poor households either had no fixed address or lacked a suitable place to work (e.g. a desk) and a computer at home. (School psychologists also noted that students participating in online classes observed huge disparities in living conditions among their peers, leading some students to feel shamed by their limited circumstances.) Finally, many of the nation’s estimated 7 million disabled students (14% of the student population) faced additional barriers when receiving online instruction.

prep school makerspace
Makerspaces have become an important part of K-12 STEM education. Formaspace manufactured the industrial-style workbenches shown above for Brophy Prep School’s new makerspace. The workbenches feature casters for increased flexibility and mobility, and the upper storage areas keep materials organized.

2. The Phenomenon Of Disappearing Students

K-12 school systems across the country found student attendance unexpectedly dropped off in 2020, with many districts reporting a 4% or more decrease in the primary and secondary student population. Did the students simply drop out when schools moved to online classrooms? Further complicating the issue of disappearing students is the students who nominally attended online classrooms but failed to show any effort in completing class assignments. Determining where the students went and what can be done to bring them back into the education system is a major challenge facing school administrators. It also creates an unwelcome income challenge for school districts — as many are funded by a formula based on student attendance.

3. Meeting Learning Objectives And Conducting Realistic Assessments And Exams

This brings us to the third major issue with the sudden switch to online classes: are students able to keep up with the normal pace of learning? Many teachers and administrators feel the answer is no; many K-12 students have fallen behind in their learning objectives compared to previous cohorts receiving in-class instruction. The issue, however, is further clouded by teachers having to improvise new ways to assess student progress in an online teaching environment. Standardized tests have been affected as well, with many exams having simply been waved off this year or highly truncated, such as this year’s shorter ACT exam or the abbreviated tests evaluating high school students’ AP credits.

4. Many Parents Can’t Work If Their Children Are Not At School During The Day

The sudden, unexpected closure of schools also put many working parents in a bind throughout 2020. If their children couldn’t go to school, many parents found they could not go to work. Childcare is too expensive for many working-class families, and even for those who can afford it, it’s not only an expensive financial burden, it’s also difficult to arrange on short notice. As a result, many parents with jobs that did not allow them the opportunity to work at home (and supervise their kids) had to scramble for child care at home or quit their job.

5. Everyone Is Stressed Out To The Limit

At the risk of stating the obvious, nearly everyone is stressed out, whether due to extended home lockdowns, fear of the virus, sudden school closures, economic disruptions, unemployment, financial difficulties, or any of the other numerous challenges that have arisen in 2020.

Addressing The Challenges And Opportunities In The Post-Covid World Of K-12 Education

The Covid pandemic brought radical change to K-12 schools in 2020 but, as we look ahead, the highly anticipated availability of vaccines in the near future means that now is the time to plan for the future of post-Covid education programs at K-12 schools.

Closing The Attainment Gap To Achieve Better Outcomes In K-12 Education

Based on the latest information from public health authorities, it looks like we can be cautiously optimistic about K-12 schools returning to more normal conditions by the start of the fall 2021 academic year.

height adjustable table for large laboratory
Many Formaspace education customers choose phenolic work surfaces to create the classic classroom or research lab workstation look. The classroom installation above features a manual crank system to adjust the height of the work surface to the appropriate, ergonomic height for the task at hand.
Data from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary and Secondary Education,” 2000–01 and 2017–18; and National Elementary and Secondary Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity Projection Model, 1972 through 2029 projects that the percent of white students will drop by 2029, while the percentage of Hispanic, Asian, and multi-racial students will increase.
arizona science center makerspace furniture
Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Our client, Arizona Science Center, was inspired by this and has built a makerspace to facilitate the expansion of ingenuity where their visitors’ design, make, create, and connect.

Setting Priorities For Federal Education Funding In The New Administration

The beginning of 2021 opens with the inauguration of a new administration and swearing in of a new Congress. How will the federal government address the educational needs of K-12 education? How will it differ from the policy objectives of the outgoing administration under Secretary DeVos?

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